Love in springtime. The thought of it inspires us. When romance is in the air one might believe that everything is possible! Consequently, weddings are most popular in the spring, summer, and fall. If you are planning to attend a wedding this season, you will most likely hear one version or another of Christian wedding vows. Take these two verses from the Bible for example:

For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24

Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate. – Mark 10:9

Though marriage is one of the most beautiful of all God-given relationships, it is also one of the most challenging. Note the wording in Genesis 2: 24, “be united” and “become one.” It is the process of two individuals becoming one that is challenging for most couples. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, we could think of the two becoming one as two people who are being meshed together, intertwined, interlaced, connected, engaged, on the same wavelength, existing in harmonious union.

However, being and becoming this way takes time, attention, and consideration. Two people do not become one by accident. The phrase “What God has joined together” is for a purpose. What has been joined together needs regular maintenance to stay together. Learning to communicate for sustained connection is key.

When people get married, they are often so in love that it can feel like nothing, and no one can stand between them. They say “forever,” and they mean it. Their emotional connection seems to be strong enough to face any giant or obstacle that would come their way. Love can be as fierce as it is tender and when a romantic relationship is fresh and new and full of promise, we tend to defend it fiercely.

Nonetheless, humans are dynamic creatures living in a world constantly in flux. People are also forgetful, easily distracted, and a bit myopic. As time goes by, the attention that was once given to each other can easily turn to other things. By simply turning our attention away from each other, there is a disconnect.

The two are no longer looking or moving in the same direction. Emotional disconnect, or emotional detachment, is when one or both persons in the marriage begin to pull away from the other. Jesus put it this way, “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love Me or each other as you did at first!” (Rev. 2:4)

According to world-renown relationship expert, John M. Gottman, PH.D., it is in the daily grind of real life that romance is fueled and kept alive each time you let your spouse know that he or she is valued. It’s all about the little things.

“Are we out of laundry detergent?” the wife says to her husband at the grocery store, “I don’t know. Let me go get some just in case,” he says.

“I had the worst nightmare last night, “the wife says in the morning, “Tell me a little bit about it and we will talk more about it tonight,” he says as he leaves for work.

These are examples of choosing to turn toward and acknowledge each other rather than turn away and disconnect.

Gottman proposes that in marriage people tend to make “bids” for their partner’s attention, affection, humor, or support. People respond to these bids by either turning toward their partner and making a connection or turning away and disconnecting. It’s a choice, either way. Partners who typically turn toward each other are like those who are putting money in the bank.

In this case, they are depositing feelings of goodwill toward one another into an emotional bank account that they will be able to draw from during the hard times. Turning toward your spouse in little ways is the key to romance that lasts. Most people think that achieving connection with their partner is a monumental task, however, Gottman’s research shows that the real secret is to turn toward each other in little ways every day.

You begin by simply becoming more aware of how important the daily, ordinary moments are to sustaining a sense of romance and connection. For many couples, just learning not to take everyday interactions for granted makes a huge difference in their relationship.

Neil Jacobson, Ph.D., of the University of Washington, found that one of the key elements to keeping your marriage strong is helping each other to cope with the stressors from other areas of your life rather than allowing them to spill over into your relationship. Jacobson has proposed having a “calming-down conversation” as an effective way to manage the stress in your life that is not caused by your marriage.

However, choosing the right time to talk is critical. It is important to wait until you are both ready. The cardinal rule is that you use this time to talk about only the stress outside of your marriage rather than the conflicts between you. Utilize this time as an opportunity to build emotional support and trust for each other.

How to Communicate Well With Your Spouse

Gottman advises following these instructions for having this discussion:

Take turns. Each person has fifteen minutes to vent and complain.

Don’t give unsolicited advice. The cardinal rule when helping your partner de-stress is that understanding must precede advice. It is important to let your partner know that he or she is seen, heard, and understood before you suggest a solution.

Often your spouse isn’t asking you to solve the issue but just to listen and provide comfort. For most couples, this comes as a great relief. A huge burden is lifted once they realize that it is not their responsibility to fix every problem but only to listen compassionately and provide support.

Show genuine interest. Stay focused on your spouse during conversations. Ask questions. Make eye contact. Give the appropriate nod or “uh-huh” response and silence your cell phone!

Communicate with understanding. Let your spouse know that you empathize: “What a bummer! I’d feel stressed out, too. I understand why you feel this way.”

Take your spouse’s side. Don’t side with the opposition, even if you feel your spouse’s side is unreasonable. The point here isn’t to be dishonest but to suspend judgment. When your spouse comes to you for support, this isn’t the time to cast moral judgment or to tell him or her what to do. Your job is to provide genuine consolation.

Express a united front, “We against others” attitude. If your mate is feeling all alone in facing some difficulty, let him or her know that you are in this together.

Express affection. Hold your partner closely in your arms and say, “I love you.”

Validate emotions. Let your partner know that his or her feelings make sense to you. “Yes, that is very sad. That would have concerned me, too.”

Additionally, Gottman believes that creating “shared meaning” is the thing that is often missing in a marriage. “Marriage isn’t just about raising kids, splitting chores, and making love,” he explains, but creating an inner life together.” Isn’t it liberating to know that you can create the environment you dream of for your marriage?

Gottman continues to explain that two people who have agreed to share their lives can create their own micro-culture by integrating customs, traditions, and symbols that represent what their relationship means to them. When a marriage has this shared sense of meaning and is fueled with a sense of purpose, conflicts and problems are much less intense and frequent. Therefore, the flow of connection remains open as two people move forward in the same direction.

It seems there is always room for improvement when it comes to the development of our interpersonal communication skills. If you and your spouse would like to learn how to communicate with each other more effectively, please reach out to any one of the counselors in our directory. We are happy to hear from you.

Photos:
“Dream Come True”, Courtesy of Oziel Gomez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Preoccupied”, Courtesy of Anne Hoang, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Holding Hands”, Courtesy of Ryan Franco, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Canoeing”, Courtesy of Trip Jodi, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

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